As a country, we’re known for falling in love as fast as we fall out of it. A recent study found that 42 per cent of marriages end in divorce, while 34 per cent of married couples divorce before their 20th wedding anniversary.
But what happens when divorce simply isn’t an option?
The story of Tini Owens
Earlier this year, newspapers broke the story of Tini Owens – a mother who was refused a divorce from her husband of 40 years.
Proving to be a highly unusual case, the court’s decision not to release Mrs Owens from her loveless marriage has since initiated a debate on the current shape of Britain’s divorce laws. Unlike many countries, including Australia and Canada, British rules can act as a disadvantage for people filing for divorce, as the UK requires couples to attribute blame when their relationship has broken down.
Common motivators for divorce include a partner being unfaithful or behaving in an unreasonable way, which can cover anything from domestic violence to heavy drinking.
Although Mrs Owens argued that the relationship had become increasingly “unpleasant”, the court wasn’t convinced by her examples and claimed they did not meet the strict criteria for unreasonable behaviour. As a consequence, her divorce was denied.
The Judges themselves admitted they weren’t happy about the decision they had had to make, but argued that the law left them with little choice.
The case has led to calls for Britain to take another look at its divorce process and consider whether it should follow the example of other countries in introducing a “no-fault” system. Those in favour of change argue the current arrangements encourage couples to place blame on each other and this can only lead to more stressful separations.
While many family lawyers would like to see some pretty big changes, hopes that the Government might take steps to introduce reforms are not high.
Only last month, top Judge Sir James Munby – who is in overall charge of the family courts – admitted that MPs didn’t have the best track record of addressing concerns in this area.
What does it take to get a divorce?
To prove that your marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down, you’ll need to prove grounds for divorce. These are:
Adultery: your significant other has been unfaithful. Note, you can’t give adultery as a reason if you lived together as a couple for six months after you found out about it.
Unreasonable Behaviour: your partner has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. This can include physical or verbal abuse, drunkenness or drug taking, or refusing to contribute financially.
Desertion: When your partner has left you without your agreement, without good reason, or to end your relationship.
Wait, what about irreconcilable differences?
You’ve seen it in the movies and in the Sunday papers, but divorcing based on irreconcilable differences is a myth – at least in the way Hollywood makes it look.
Here in the UK, and as outlined in the Tini Owens case, courts strictly follow the grounds for divorce listed above and leave very little wiggle room.
Learn more about the grounds for divorce If you would like to know more about the grounds for divorce and what options might be available for you, it is always important to seek expert legal advice. For further information about how we can help you please contact our family law specialist, Simon Nellar by telephone on 01904 528200 or via his email: firstname.lastname@example.org